April 26, 2013
This weekend: Georgia Tech vs. No. 23 Florida State at Mewborn Field
Saturday: 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m.
By Jon Cooper
Situational hitting can reveal a lot about a hitter.
It can act as a book to helps guide an opposing pitching coach and pitcher as to how to attack a particular batter. Where is a hitter most vulnerable? What is her weakness?
Best of luck to the opposing pitching coach — this week Lonni Alameda, also the head coach of the Florida State Seminoles — in trying to find the weakness of sophomore outfielder Katie Johnsky.
“Katie has had clutch hits for us this year and team hitting whether we need a base hit or power out of her,” said Georgia Tech head coach Sharon Perkins.
Granted, it’s difficult to feel too much pity for the Seminoles. They bring the ACC’s second-lowest ERA (1.93), second-lowest opposing batting average (.199) and the most strikeouts (145) and two of the ACC’s best pitchers in Lacey Waldrop and Monica Perry, (1-3 in ERA, 1-2 in opposing batting average), into Mewborn Field to face the Yellow Jackets this weekend. But the sophomore from Sarasota, Fla., probably made it difficult for the ‘Noles braintrust in scouting out a weakness.
Heading into this weekend’s series, the left-handed hitting Johnsky is hitting .328 against right-handers, .400 against lefties, .324 with runners on base, .347 with the bases empty, .500 with the bases full, .432 leading off, .327 with runners in scoring position, .667 with a runner on third and less than two out, .391 with two outs, and has a .636 success rate in advancing runners.
About the only situation in which she has not succeeded is pinch-hitting, where she has a .000 average. Johnsky has not been called upon to pinch hit.
A key is keeping things simple and not overthinking.
“I’m just trying to keep a clear mind and play to my potential,” said Johnsky, who is hitting .323, .300 in ACC play, with a .423 on-base percentage and a .534 slugging percentage.
All of those numbers are way up from her freshman season, when she hit .256 for the season, .273 in ACC play, and had a .327 OBP and slugged .323.
Johnsky also has improved in just about every offensive category from last year including hits (49 vs. 34), doubles (11 vs. 7), triples (3 vs. 1), homers (4 vs. 0), and RBIs (49 vs. 16).
“I’m definitely more comfortable,” she said. “I know all the girls. I can talk with them if there’s a problem or anything and, obviously, I know how the coaches coach so I’m learning how to respond better to the way they coach.”
She’s certainly responded to the Yellow Jackets’ staff and how they’ve coached her defensively, particularly when it comes to how she play right field.
Johnsky has made one error all season (in the first game of the April 13 doubleheader against Maryland) in 54 chances, chalking up three outfield assists.
“Last year she was great but I think she might have been a little bit more timid last year, being a freshman,” said centerfielder Hayley Downs. “This year, she’s been absolutely perfect. She has that spot on lockdown. If a ball’s hit out there we know she’s going to catch it. I have complete confidence in the person next to me. Having a year of playing under our belts we communicate well. She’s amazing. She’ll catch everything.”
Johnsky’s ability to make the transition to right field is impressive considering she played on the other side of the outfield for most of her softball life prior to Georgia Tech.
“In high school I played left field. They switched me over to right field last year as a freshman,” she said. “It’s worked out. I get better reads on the ball. I, personally, like it and just try to catch everything.”
In addition to just about every ball, Johnsky has caught fire at the plate. She has raised her average 40 points to .336, since April 6, batting .447 (17-for-38), with seven multi-hit games (she’s riding a streak of three straight such games). She ranks sixth in the ACC with 11 doubles and 10th in at-bats with 146.
The Florida State series is an important one for the team, which enters the season’s penultimate week in fifth place. Johnsky believes the team can build momentum for the postseason as last year’s ACC Champion did.
“I think we can,” she said. “It’s important to peak during your conference tournament and I think that we have potential to peak at that time and hopefully win the tournament and make it into Regionals.”
There’s no better opponent against whom to start than Florida State. Johnsky insists it’s nothing against the school other than it being on the schedule.
“I have some friends that go to Florida State,” she said. “So there’s nothing too personal. I always want to beat everybody.”